Tucked away between tree-lined ravines, wide winding roads and gorgeous green spaces, lies a tranquil west end neighbourhood made up of dreams for a well-lived life. This lovely community defined by the picturesque Buena Vista Road, bordered by Sir Wilfred Laurier Park, the Edmonton Valley Zoo and dotted by paths that lead to River Valley trails, is an adventure waiting to be discovered by locals. Yet with beautiful nature at their doorsteps, the over 2,800 residents of Laurier Heights have plenty more to experience in a friendly community brewing with modern amenities for all homeowners to enjoy.
See you at Sweet Pea Café & Playhouse
For Olympic figure skating medalist Jamie Salé, launching the new Sweet Pea Café & Playhouse in Laurier Heights has been a golden experience. “We feel such pride about how we were welcomed here – it’s a very big sense of community; there is an energy that is different and everyone supports each other and the businesses that are here.” Salé and her four partners debuted the new concept café last summer, which focuses on delicious healthy plant-based food. Popular menu items include Super Smoothies, Curry Wraps, Buddha Bowls, Chocolate, Banana and Avocado Nice Cream – and lots of kid approved items like Cheezy Pasta and creamy Oat Milk Hot Chocolate. “It was a trailblazing idea at the time, we thought about it, had the urge to do it, and people love it – we have never looked back.”
The Sweet Pea Café & Playhouse has become a destination of choice for Edmontonians and locals alike. Children love the six custom built themed play structures where they can play doctor, teacher or restaurant, while parents, grandparents and caregivers get a break. The new café & playhouse idea fits right in with Jamie’s passion, as the former world and Olympic pairs skating champion is also a life coach. “It’s about helping to make a person’s day - whether it’s a stressed out mom who needs a coffee, sharing parenting stories or making someone happy with our ‘pay it forward’ initiative – what matters is a connection to each individual person so they leave feeling better.”
Jamie’s friend Natasha Chiam sees the café as a central hub in the community. She drops in for coffee on the way to work at least three or four times a week and meets parents from the school close by. “When my school coffee bud is away on holidays, I feel a bit lost; I kind of miss him,” she laughs. Today Natasha sips on a Tropical Ginger Fruit Smoothie and eagerly chats about the neighbourhood she calls home. It’s a close knit area that feels comfortable and safe. “I love that my kids can walk to school and I’m not worried about them. I love hearing the random doorbells of kids coming to grab friends to play in the neighbourhood.”
The social media consultant and her husband have lived in Laurier Heights for the past 12 years, building two infills and finally settling on a perfectly sized bungalow they renovated. Their young son and daughter attend the K – 9 French Immersion Laurier Heights School, which has a long standing tradition of excellence, active parent involvement and has seen increased enrollment.
In the Laurier Heights neighbourhood friendships are strong. “There’s a whole bunch of us on our block that have a progressive dinner,” says Natasha. “We pair up and have a different course at each house and end up at the last one for dessert and drinks. We know of other streets where people have similar suppers and bike to each other’s houses. It’s a great community; we’re always having a good time together.”
Let the Games Begin
Down the street it’s Friday night fun at the Laurier Heights Community League Hall. Tonight’s event is a Classic Board Games Mixer, courtesy of local hip business Table Top Café. “Once a month we have a community potluck get together. We’ll do a movie, or karaoke night which is really great. We have a lot of new families moving into the neighbourhood right now and it’s a great way to meet new people,” says Karen Wilk, Laurier Heights Community League President.
Active in the community league, she’s especially proud of Laurier Heights success establishing “Block Connectors” in the Abundant Community Edmonton (ACE) program run through the city. It was one of the first neighbourhoods involved in the pilot project eight years ago. Block Connectors act as a point person casually meeting people on their street, filling them in on what is happening in the community, and learning about gifts they can share with others. They arrange for a block social once a year, and the 30 block connectors meet monthly in the community to stay on top of issues and provide feedback to the board.
Overall “instead of struggling to find volunteers to get involved in the neighbourhood, it’s lead to building relationships and more people involved in the community league board and teams,” she says. The results are caring and sharing initiatives – such as neighbours helping each other by shoveling snow. Unique clubs have sprung up – like book and garden talk groups, Wine and Women on Wednesdays (WWW) and interesting arts and craft sessions lead by residents with special talents. Other interactive events in the newly renovated hall include fitness, sport ball and social programs; the stay and play toddler playgroup; and the cool upcoming all ages musical, East Coast Kitchen Party.
In the summer the community league is buzzing with activity at the tennis courts and large playground and spray park for kids. A new “Urban Forest” development is in the works for the community grounds, where self sustaining trees and shrubs will provide fresh produce for residents. The hope is that seniors in the area can teach canning lessons to kids. As Karen notes at the potluck suppers “Widows, young families, new babies – it’s a great intergenerational get together. We don’t care about the numbers who come, as long as we’re together.”
Laurier Heights for All Walks of Life
For Chartered Accountant Darcy Yamada, Laurier Heights is the perfect, quiet place for his maturing family’s next phase. Residing in the neighbourhood for the past 25 years, he and his wife raised their two grown children and made extensive renovations to their 1100 sq foot bungalow. “With that investment, we are rooted and believe in being in the core. We can give up the “newness” in the suburbs for all the amenities and what we love here and why we stay.” Over the years, Darcy and his wife have enjoyed the proximity to work and the ability to get to the grocery store or west end within minutes. The friendly neighbours, excellent schools within walking distance, playground, hockey rink for the kids and peaceful strolls along the trails are all an added bonus.
Situated close to Whitemud Drive, with 149 Street to the west and 87 Avenue to the north, the neighbourhood is locked in and enjoys less traffic than most. “Laurier Heights is a hidden gem,” he says. “It’s off the beaten track and I love the wider roads, green spaces and open feel of the neighbourhood. I still think this place has a lot of potential,” he adds. “It’s one of those few neighbourhoods that can accommodate different types of home buyers. There are a variety of lot sizes and houses from really nice entry level bungalows for young families to the executive homes along Buena Vista Road and Laurier Drive.”
Darcy’s settled into the community with his splendid simple life, and looks forward to the future. “We chose this as where we want to be. It’s a wonderful place to raise kids and at least now they have a place they can come back and visit. It really is a great community for all of life’s stages.”
Back at the Sweet Pea Café & Playhouse, Natasha agrees. She knows of a few centenarians who live in the community, who have never lived anywhere else. “So on one end of the spectrum we have these neighbourhood folks who’ve been here for years and now many young new families moving in.” And the connection between the generations is embraced. Currently the Grade 8 students at Laurier Heights School are working on painting a mural at the Canterbury residences, where the seniors will vote on the winning design. “The people who live here want to stay here – so when they transition they want to be where you know everyone; when you go for a walk, down the street, across from the hair salon – or out for a coffee.”
“We feel extremely lucky,” adds Jamie, “to have built wonderful relationships with families like Natasha’s and to have created an environment that connects the community.” With the successful way things are going, the neighbourhood kids of today are on track to become the café clients of tomorrow. There’s something for everyone, of all ages, in this naturally friendly west end community. At Holland & Associates we can help you find your next house in Laurier Heights and make your Home Sweet Home dreams come true.